Monday, June 9, 2014

Fro Knows Photo - Beginner Flash Guide Review


Jared Polin, the Fro certainly knows photos and he certainly knows flash photography…Well, he knows people who are technically brilliant with flash photography.

One of my first studio shots - shot against a white background 

Using on camera flash was nothing new to me.  I have done several corporate events using on-camera flash, particularly the Olympus FL-600r with both my OMD E-M5 and the E-M1.  TTL or through the lens metering is a wonderful thing especially when my subjects are constantly moving around [think of TTL as an automatic mode that determines the amount of flash needed to properly expose an image]. Despite its utility, automatic mode drove me crazy because I just had to know how to do things manually and how flash works with the exposure triangle (Aperture, ISO and Shutter Speed). I knew if I wanted to get serious about my craft, I would have to learn the fundamentals of on/off camera flash and be able to replicate results in varying conditions. 

One light source - a low key technique I learned from the guide

Enter Jared Polin, Fro Knows Photo =).  I have been a long time listener of his podcast and I have probably viewed all of his videos twice over. Some may be turned off by how opinionated he is about certain topics, but I find it rather refreshing. What I respect most about the Fro is that he doesn't hide the fact that he doesn't know everything. In making his beginner flash guide, he recruited the help of Adam Lerner, a prominent portrait and fashion photographer based in New York, who has the technical knowledge to deliver the information needed to understand using a flash.  Not to say the Fro isn’t knowledgeable about the topic, but I believe his technique comes to him intuitively and from years of experience behind the camera.  Plus he is entertaining as heck and is the perfect side kick to Adam.  

Another one light shot - one of my favorite photos 
I have always been weary of buying guides and videos to improve my photography because I know I can easily find most of what I need either on forums or YouTube. In fact, I found a lot of the B&H seminars extremely helpful. The only problem I had with these free resources is that I had to sift through a lot of bad and/or incomplete information.  As a self taught photographer, this was not only frustrating, but at times exacerbated my confusion. I knew I would have to pony up some cash to really get the information I needed to improve my flash photography.  

Single light source but balanced with daylight.  

I will be honest, I was initially weary of the Fro mainly because he has a big voice and even bigger presence in the photography industry.  The Gary Fong lightsphere diffuser immediately popped in my head - something that was over-hyped and under-delivered (I never owned one, but with my limited use, I found my Stofen difusser cap worked just as well and was smaller/cheaper). Needless to say, I worried for nothing. At the risk of sounding like a sponsored writer (which I am not), I would say this was one of the best photography related purchases I have made in years.  After an hour into the guide, I felt confident I could do basic off camera photography because both the Fro and Adam delivered the message in an easy-to-comprehend manner. It is from their basic, most fundamental principles of flash photography that I was able to develop a better understanding of more advanced techniques from balancing ambient/flash to lighting a model with 3, 4 or sometimes 5 different lights. In fact, the same day I watched the guide I had a engagement session at the beach. Normally I would leave home without my flash trigger/receivers, but left with the sole intent of using it.  My clients were happy.

This guide is a must buy.  I will admit, I was afraid of flash.  I used to say to others that I didn't like using flash because it was too harsh or provides an unrealistic look when in reality I didn't know what I was talking about.  Not only do my images look sharper due to the wonderful specular highlights, but my confidence to shoot in any condition, harsh or ideal, has vastly improved. I will be the first to admit that I ALWAYS feel nervous before going to a shoot. I can't explain why, but I do. The fear eventually goes away once I "warm" up and get into my groove. Lately that transition from nervousness to confidence has been a lot faster due to the technical knowledge I have developed from this guide. 

A 4 light, high-key set up using a mixture of strobes, lights and light modifiers

To summarize, here are some of the things I really liked about the Beginner Flash Guide:

  • Entertaining and fun to watch 
  • Fantastic production quality
  • They provide an introduction to some of the basic flash gear, from the light stands to flash triggers.
  • Effective delivery of information using laymen's terms
  • Adam and Jared provide several examples, including settings they use.
  • Affordable - the best $70 you will spend related to photography
  • The guide is not specific to any one camera model or brand.  

I hope this review has helped.  If you want to learn more about the guide, I have embedded Fro's preview below. Thanks for stopping by. 

So say we all,


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